We’ve all had that one project … that big, overwhelming, seemingly impossible thing on our to-do list that, try as we might, just never seems to get done. Next time you have “that project” on your plate, just follow these tips from Lisa Gerber to break it down and make it much easier to tackle:
Post by: @lisagerber
I have this bad habit of procrastinating on projects that are overwhelming to me. I have a feeling I’m not alone in this.
You know the ones I’m referring to. They sit there on the to-do list, languishing because it’s far too easy to say, “I don’t have time to deal with that now. I’ll cross the easy items off first.” Until panic grows as you approach deadline, you end up pulling an all-nighter to get it done, knowing it’s not your best work.
Worse than that, perhaps it’s a project you want to do, but doesn’t have a deadline. So it never gets done.
That’s about to end.
That was the old me, but now I know about chunking. It’s the idea of breaking things into small pieces to make them more manageable. Specifically, it’s a mental technique athletes use to make it through, for example, a triathlon like a champion. Instead of focusing on the finish line 6 hours away, you focus on running to the next telephone pole, or swimming to the next buoy or biking the next mile.
It’s no different in our professional lives. We need the endurance to get things done and the mental capacity to move forward. If we think we have to get to the finish line today, we won’t start. It’s much easier to see what’s happening on Facebook.
Now, instead of saying, “I really need to spend a day revamping my website.” Or, “I have to get started on that client marketing plan,” I immediately break it down into chunks with the project goal in mind. I create a list of tangible to-do items and a file in my Evernote so as I get ideas on how to achieve this and find examples I want to emulate (not copy, but emulate), I throw them in there. I have a list broken down how I will achieve the project. For my website project, it might look like this:
- Rewrite the copy in my About page to update… such and such.
- Research and install a plugin pop-up box for email subscribers.
- Add a page on How to Work With Me
- Go through old blog posts to find a topic idea for a new ebook.
That last bullet point will spur off to a new project – creating an ebook. Again, I don’t want to make it an overwhelming task, so I’m not going to worry about the rest. I just want to get a topic idea first.
Evernote is my tool of choice. You might have others. I had Evernote on my devices for years but until I watched this video on setting it up, it wasn’t a habit for me. (The interface has been updated since the video was created but the premise remains the same.)
In the old days, I waited until my desk was cleaned off, or my day was free to tackle that new initiative or big client project. I have a client right now who wants to take their business to the next level by building a digital presence. I see her procrastinating getting started. I know it’s overwhelming and she wants to close out this or that before she can get started.
But if we wait for the clean slate or that big chunk of time to dedicate to something, it’s less likely to get done. Instead, when you have a list of finite tasks to achieve towards the goal, it’s much easier during a 15 minute break before your next meeting to say, “I’m going to research that plugin right now” instead of taking a quick Twitter break.
My Mom sent me a story the other day about a woman who had planted five acres of daffodils on her home on a mountain top. The vision was a stunning swirl of a variety of golds and yellows. Many varieties had been planted to create a beautiful pattern. One woman had created this garden on her own, planting one bulb at a time for about 50 years.
What will you regret 50 years from now if you don’t start planting bulbs today?
Lisa Gerber is founder of Big Leap Creative Integrated Communications. Although she and her clients want to take big leaps, it takes baby steps to get there. She works with destination, energy, aerospace clients, and startups to breathe life into their vision to create and tell stories by way of web content, video, and email that attract the right audience. She blogs here and you can find her on Twitter here.
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